Q: Some playwrights can write comedies easily, others can't. Do you think comedy can be taught, or are some writers just inherently funnier than others?
A: I think creative writing is something one is born with - whether he or she fancies comedy or drama. Whether a person develops this gift makes all the difference. As they say, in many areas, one must have the Two Ts to succeed: Talent and Tenacity. I know many who have the Talent but not the blood, sweat and tears to bring this innate insight to fruition.
Q: When people from other parts of the state or the country hear that someone is an "Orange County playwright," they may assume certain things about that playwright's life experience, politics, writing style, etc., and those assumptions are often wholly inaccurate. You are a longtime resident of Orange County. Has OC had any kind of influence on your playwriting and screenwriting, or none at all?
A: The big problem with living in Orange County is that it has such a great climate that I find myself coming up with all kinds of excuses to leave the desk and enjoy the outdoors. For a long time, I thought I was the only playwright in such an upscale, conspicuously-consumptive area, but I discovered through OC-centric that there are, indeed, more than a few playwrights in The OC. As I’m sure is the case almost anywhere.
I also discovered a wonderful web site, Stage32.com, which caters to playwrights and screenwriters, and all other areas involved in creating plays and movies. And I’ve met a number of fellow writers from Orange County via this wonderful web site.
Q: Little-known fact about you: you pitched in the Little League World Series; in fact you threw four no-hit innings in what was arguably the most famous Little League game ever played. They even made a movie about it, The Perfect Game. Have you ever thought about writing a baseball play? There aren't many, we could use more.
A: Thanks for bringing up the biggest loss in my life! Seriously, I saw the movie at least five times, and my name is mentioned several times - and, no, I didn’t receive any money for having “Lew Riley” in the dialogue. The movie was so compelling I found myself even rooting for the Cinderella boys from a dirt-poor region of Monterrey, Mexico.
I hadn’t thought of writing a play about baseball or any sport till you mentioned it. Good idea! I remember going to see Field of Dreams thinking it would be formulaic - and ending up not only loving it but crying like a baby. It really tugged at my heart - especially the line when the dad asks his son if he “wants to have a catch.” My sports play or screenplay would have to be a comedy, though - not that there’s anything wrong with it.
Q: What's the greatest bit of playwriting advice you have received - or alternately, the greatest realization that you have come to about the process or art of playwriting?
A: My greatest advice for writing - whether playwriting or screenwriting (or any other type of creative writing, for that matter) - is know that you have a Muse inside you, and you “Must Trust Your Muse.” I just finished a screenplay - Pants On Fire! - and I had several plot problems, but I knew if I just sat down at the computer - rather than watch aSeinfeld rerun - and started typing, my Muse would deliver - sooner or later. And I was amazed at how creative much of the material I was “sent.” I consider myself, basically, a conduit between my Muse and the computer.
As my favorite playwright Neil Simon said, “The first rule of writing is to sit one’s seat in the seat of a chair!”
Lew Riley's Saint or Sinner? opens Saturday, August 23 @ 2pm at OC-Centric.